Quebec is scaling back some rules for seniors in private residences that were implemented at the beginning of the novel coronavirus pandemic, the province’s premier announced on Tuesday.
François Legault said easing measures aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, will help autonomous seniors in those facilities regain some of their independence.
“You can’t protect physical health at the detriment of mental health,” he said.
As part of the plan, residents in good health will be able to go for unsupervised walks and outings for essential services as of May 11. They can also see their family outdoors.
“It’s time to let them return to a more normal life,” Legault said. “Of course, the virus is still there. We must remain very careful.”
However, there will still be some restrictions in place to stop the spread of COVID-19. The strict rules rolled out by government in March will still apply in residences where there are confirmed or probable cases.
Residences must keep a register of all visits and outings. Seniors who are able to go out unsupervised are also asked to abide by social-distancing measures, wear masks and wash their hands before and after leaving their residence.
Horacio Arruda, director of Quebec public health, warned officials are willing to make changes if necessary.
“I am telling you, that just like we have done for other sectors, measures can be implemented again if ever there is a specific problem that happens in a region,” he said.
Provincial authorities also announced that for humanitarian reasons, families would now be permitted to visit those in palliative care. Caregivers’ access to long-term care homes will also become the rule rather than the exception amid confusion in those facilities.
“We say all caregivers, they have the right to see their people in those homes, and if residence management refuse, they will have to justify why,” said Legault.
The changes come as Quebec continues to see hundreds of new infections each day. It has the highest number of cases in Canada at 33,417 cases, an increase of 794 from the previous day.
The respiratory illness has killed 118 more Quebecers as of Tuesday, bringing the province’s death toll to 2,398. Many of the victims lived in long-term care facilities.
Staff shortages in long-term care homes
Legault said that long-term care homes, which have been hard hit by the virus and staffing shortages, need more workers.
The health-care system is missing 11,200 workers, according to Legault. He said they are absent either because they are sick, vulnerable to contracting COVID-19 or scared to go to work.
Legault said about one-third of the absent workers are no longer in quarantine, and he asked those who are able to return to work to do so.
“We are in a war and we need you more than ever,” he said.
The premier also confirmed that the statistics concerning cases and deaths in long-term care homes have been temporarily removed from the government’s website.
Legault said 306 long-term and seniors’ residences in the province have at least one COVID-19 case, with 4,804 residents infected.
— With files from the Canadian PressView link »